Welcome to the Dragon Folk Club

Welcome to the official blog of the Dragon Folk Club, which meets for a singers night every Friday at The Bridge Inn, Shortwood, Bristol. Everyone is welcome whether you sing, play or just listen.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

4th July - Independence Day

We've made it to the 100th post on the Dragon Folk Club blog. Granted not all of the posts are session reports but the vast majority are. The session this week took on a largely sateside theme, it being 4th July, American Independence Day.

Opening discussions were wide ranging and not a little seedy. Derek was interested to hear the progress of the Glamorgan versus Somerset cricket match, which was abandoned without a ball being bowled - at least it didn't make Derek quite as depressed as a defeat for Glamorgan but he said his team needed a win, so it wasn't all good news either. It seemed that most other discussions led to 69 and we nearly found out too much information about someone's daughter! I asked Colin what was the obscure song he sang last week about the Potteries. He answered that it was The jolly machine but Kevin misheard and thought he was talking about a contraceptive dispenser.

Just to fill in the retrospective details. I found The jolly machine on an album of the same name by Mike Raven and Joan Mills (I haven't yet been able to find the track to listen to). The sleeve notes on the album say "This song appeared in the Potteries Examiner on 21st December 1855. It voices the author's fears of unemployment with the introduction of machinery, and urges all working men to join their Union. The lighthearted tune was fitted by Michael Raven and has echoes of 'Bound for the Rio Grande'". I don't know whether this is the same tune but it may be.

Now back to this week, Mike started off the session proper with Johnny I hardly knew yam which has been discussed previously at some length on this blog. For the purpose of this week, the most important factor is probably that it is the original application for the tune later used for When Johnny comes marching home.

Several people strayed from the American theme but Richard created his own, marking the coming Grand D├ępart of the Tour de France from Harewood House in Yorkshire with Yorkshire romance for two by CJ Rowe with an extra verse by Richard himself.

Back on the American track, Simon sang Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia, which tells the back-story of Jeremiah Dixon and Charles Mason. Mike's first shanty of the evening was definitely on-topic being Roll the cotton down.

Derek said he didn't know many traditional American songs. Mike seemed to challenge that there could be such a thing, but Derek went on to sing The longest train anyway, it having been collected by Alan Lomax. Richard went for a shanty: Ilo man. A previous discussion about Tom's gone to Hilo suggested that Hilo was in fact Ilo in Peru. If the spelling of this song is verifiable it would seem to be a reasonable suggestion at least in this case. The alternative was Hilo in Hawaii.

Mike's next song was Stan Rogers' Barrett's Privateers; not quite American since Stan was Canadian but Derek told the amusing story of someone at a folk club in the North East of England who sang it, replacing "Sherbrooke" with "Sherburn" (County Durham). When Derek told the chap what it should be, he asked where that was. "Canada", said Derek. "In that case", said the chap, "how did they get back over to Halifax?" (or is that Halifax?) Steve offered another Stan Rogers song in White squall; a song about storms on the Great Lakes. A white squall is a sudden and violent windstorm at sea which is not accompanied by the black clouds generally characteristic of a squall; they are rare at sea but common on the Great Lakes.

Colin, as is his usual way, confused several people by singing May the bird of paradise fly up your nose. No one seemed to know this comedy country song except Derek, who confirmed Colin's claim that it was by Little Jimmy Dickens, and that he had often heard it as a child. Apparently the song reached number 1 in the American country chart in 1965 and even reached number 15 in the pop chart. Simon continued the theme with Jean Ritchie's The L&N don't stop here anymore.

Surely a road trip is about as quintessentially American as you can get, and Colin touched on this with Kris Kristofferson's Me and Bobby McGee. Lesley followed this in a similar vein with John Denver's Leaving on a jet plane, a song Richard apparently dislikes so much that he absented himself from the room while his wife sang it.

Simon's last song , still on the American theme, was Jerome Kern's and Oscar Hammerstein II's Ol' man river from the musical Show Boat. This was followed by the last song of the evening, All the good times are past and gone, sung by Mike.

Here's a selection of these and other songs sung during the session.

(Number of people present - 10, of which 8 performed)

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